I am sharing this article written by Ayo Ositelu, in his column in The Arena titled “The Verdict of Abdullahi”. The article was published in the Sunday CONCORD newspaper in December 2, 1990. My intent here is to show that tennis improvement and sports development is a long process that requires deep and careful thought, and it involves a lot of other things. It is not clear to me whether Pat Ekeji, the Acting Director-General of the National Sports Commission, the architect of the privatization of the 33 federations understands the inherent problems associated with privatization of sports in
Perhaps most importantly, in the estimation of this columnist at least, the man with a mission took a good look at the state of the game which has made him an idol to many youth in this country and which has guaranteed him a comfortable livelihood in the
He even tried to view seriously the reported claim from the throne of the chairmanship of the governing body of the sport in
Like some of us, Abdulahi is not taking to the street in jubilation. His verdict? Forget it. These ones that I see aren’t taking
We should listen to Abdulahi. He has been through it all. On his way up; he was a beneficiary or is it victim of a half bred tennis development program which left youngsters to virtually develop on their own more, often than not, those youngster went cap-in-hand soliciting for used tennis equipment, balls and unavailable space from members private tennis clubs to practice during “prime time.” Now “prime time” in tennis is not the same as television prime time. In tennis, it is twice a day very early in the morning and in the afternoon when the sun is not too harsh.
while most of the youths we wish would compete with the rest of the world start playing the game after their tenth birthday and lack decent equipment and adequate coaching, their peers who turn out to dominate the world circuit to become Wimbledon champions start almost as soon as they could walk, and benefit from parental backing, government constructed public tennis courts or private ones, and develop through different levels of coaching as they grow in the game.
Sadiq Abdullahi is one of those fortunate kids (by Nigerian standards) who got a chance to play at all. He once was a ball boy at premier clubs who sought and sometimes got some philanthropic members’ generosity in return for spending hours teaching out-of-shape but vastly successful doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. Of course, he became a good player, again by Nigerian standards. Ironically, while he blossomed into such “high standards’ which in reality was just below fair standard in USA, Soviet Union, Australia, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, W. Germany etc, his peers in the mentioned countries were challenging the best in the world.
The story is the same today. While some tennis devotees are falling over themselves for the All-Nigeria tournament victory of a youth who is nearer thirty than twenty over a 40 years old David Imonitie, we are forgetting that Michael Chang won the French Open at 17. Boris Becker won
After dominating the Nigerian tennis scene for years, Sadiq Abdullahi did what is becoming fashionable for successful Nigerian doctors. He did not choose
When he has the time, he takes time off coaching to participate in neighborhood or intercity tournaments. Living a life almost completely devoted to tennis, Sadiq obviously sees the vantage point. If he is helping
Tennis progress in
What the body has repeatedly failed to do is to engineer a drive towards grassroots development of the sport, or arrange a sound and organized training program for those youths who hunger for stardom to blossom into real stars. The body should take Abdullahi’s verdict seriously and be prepared to work as the body running the sport and not only as organizers of tournaments. We have written it several times in this column, and have made a few enemies here and there, that we spent too much time celebrating and capitalizing on Odizor’s modest but well deserved accomplishments in the world tennis circuit.
Now that the same message is coming from a champion (now a coach) who has been through it all- the ugly and now the beautiful in the